The most common question I’m asked after appearing as a guest speaker for parents dealing with gender non-conforming youth, is “what one piece of advice could I give to parents that would help them begin to accept their child.”
Each time I’m asked this question, it’s like I’m being asked which end of the bull I would like to do battle with. I stare blankly back at the ask-er, and all coherent thought eludes me.
The truth is, I find this question quite troublesome. What kind of parent doesn’t accept their child as-is? And unfortunately, that immediate thought blocks out all others. (I excel in self-distractibility.) The trouble with being forthright with honesty is that I tend to offend. I’m the kind of gal that others refer to as… prickly. Not everyone can handle the truth. And while I am learning how to make-nice and think of people’s feelings before I speak my truth (I still don’t think that should be my problem, however, I don’t make up these rules of engagement) in the end, I babble some feel-good jibber-jabber to confuse and distract, and then quickly move on to the next question.
But everywhere I go—there it is. Like a dead albatross that I must wear for my crime of automatic acceptance. I have spent many a car-ride home contemplating a better response to this question. One that is true, but also considerate. A philosophical conundrum for the passionately honest folk like myself. <ahem.>
After serious soul-searching, the only answer I’ve decided I can (or should) give is that which is true for me. Given my bedside manner (there’s a reason I’m not a therapist or social worker) I need to choose my advice wisely.
My one piece of advice is actually two-fold. Appreciate life, and remember to see yourself as a child. Most people don’t appreciate life the way that they should. It usually takes monumental adversity to scare-up the kind of appreciation for each moment of the day that you have available to love—and be loved. Epiphanies can’t be taught. Each person must find it for themselves. And it must be practiced daily. This kind of appreciation helps settle you. It directs your battles. It reduces fear, anger and frustration. If you are struggling with acceptance of who your child is, I encourage you to have an epiphany. There are worse evils in the world that can be delivered to your doorstep.
Also remember that you are but a child yourself. As adults, we have wrapped ourselves in the glory of our own families and have forgotten the once upon a time of our youth. The way in which you love your own children is the way that you are loved. Denying it or not feeling your parents love does not constitute or guarantee its absence. I may have grown up and become an adult and a parent, but I did not leave my youth behind as I might have thought. It has been here, in me and around me, the entire time. The absolute truth of what I know is that your life is not a linear succession of milestones, but a vast circumference of love and memories. I did not leave home and embark on my own life—home came with me. Always and undeniably, I am but a child of my parents.
I have been lucky enough to have had several life-changing epiphanies. Perhaps I didn’t get it the first few times—but you can read the one that stuck here. With this understanding, I see parenting through the eyes of the mother AND the child. Children look to their parents for comfort, nurture, safety, and acceptance. And if you love your children… you will swim the ocean, you will climb the mountain and you will go toe-to-toe with the boogeyman.
My advice is, go put your big boots on.